Greater Vigilance Needed in War Against Terror

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, May 20, 2002, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Should the FBI be forced to release that Phoenix memo or other material? We're joined now by Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, Republican member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee.

Senator, I assume that your committee is going to sit down and see that memo, if you haven't already. Am I right about that?

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), SENATE SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We've been through the memo many times, and I can tell you this. It should not be made public. There's too much in it that would compromise ongoing investigations.

It doesn't need to be made public because the key point, which was a suggestion by the Phoenix agent that FBI headquarters ought to look into the number of Arab men attending flight school, has already been made public.

Should the FBI have done more about that? Robert Mueller, the new director of the FBI, has said yes, that the FBI should have done more about that. As a matter of fact, he's begun to reorganize the FBI so that this particular kind of situation probably would not occur again.

GIBSON: What about the FAA?

It sat on the information it had about Moussaoui up in Minnesota and did not tell the airlines. God knows if the airlines would have done anything about it even if they knew. Is that any reason to be upset?

KYL: I'm not sure that I totally accept the premise of your question. The FAA did issue several threat warnings to American carriers in June and July of last year.

As to whether they should have issued something specifically with respect to Moussaoui, I'm not sure.

GIBSON: Let me put it this way. If the FAA knew that a person of a certain description, let's say a Middle Eastern guy, was training to fly heavy jets and that there was some suspicion about the way he was pursuing that training, should airlines have been notified specifically about that?

KYL: Quite possibly so. But, again, our investigation by the Intelligence Committee is looking into all of these issues and gathering the facts. Then we're going to make a recommendation about what could have been and should have been done differently so that it wouldn't happen again.

I think it's a little premature for me to begin jumping out with respect to specific issues and indicating what should have been done.

GIBSON: The reason we're asking that is not just to pester you, but we're now getting new warnings. The vice president is saying that it's just a matter of when we'll be attacked again, and Mr. Mueller is talking about suicide bombings.

There's a lot of chatter, as there was in the days previous to 9/11. So it becomes a question of how concerned Americans should be, how vigilant they should be.

Should they let themselves hyperventilate a little bit now that this chatter has stepped up at this point?

KYL: The chatter stopped about five weeks before September 11th, but that's really neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is we are picking up a lot more about activities by the terrorists. We just don't know what or when or where.

Should we be more vigilant? Yes. Should the government indicate we're hearing these kind of things? Yes. As a matter of fact, there are some people who have acted to report to law enforcement activities that have actually helped us in conducting investigations relative to the war on terror.

So just being alert is a very good thing. But is it likely to stop a terrorist attack when it comes? Perhaps not. This is a very big and wide open country.

GIBSON: Are you confident today that if the CIA were asked to brief the president again that the CIA would know whatever the FBI knows?

KYL: I hope so. That's one of the big questions. Does the CIA know what FBI knows and vice versa? Does everybody who needs to know within the FBI and CIA know what's happening with other aspects or bureaus or agencies of their own departments?

So this is one of the things that our committee is really focused on because it's pretty clear that we have to make some changes.

GIBSON: Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, a member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee.

Senator, it's always good for you to be with us. Thanks very much.

KYL: Thank you.

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